Cats Knowingly Smother Babies???

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On the weekends, I read the paper. In case you think that is why I am so worldly, I must confess I only read the Lifestyle section. But I do read it, all the way through, so that has to count for something, right?

So, anyway, I’m reading the syndicated column called Parenting, by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow. A mother is writing in because she is concerned that her pregnant daughter has 3 cats. 3 cats who have been the center of her daughter’s life and are a little spoiled. She is concerned that the cats will be jealous of the baby.

The doctors begin their answer by talking about toxoplasma. The list some of the precautions that must be taken. So far, so good.

Then they address the issue of jealousy. Now, I agree the cats may be jealous, but there are ways to handle it. I suspect that there are lots and lots of people who have babies and cats. Of course you would never leave a baby alone with a cat, but really, you shouldn’t leave a baby alone with any animal. Do the good doctor’s give that kind of rational advice?? No! This is their response:

“Some cats will seek out the babies’ mouths to smother them. It may sound heartless, but it would be better for the baby if your daughter would rid herself of the cats.”

If they had worded this a different way. If they had said that cats like to cuddle and sleep on people and that they might accidentally lay on a babies’ face, so you should be cautious. I would be okay with that. But to actually say that the cats are going to seek out the babies’ mouth with the intention of smothering the baby, sounds ridiculous to me.

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  1. says

    It sounds ridiculous to me too. I had a beautiful calico cat before our first child was born and my husband made me get rid of her. I always thought this was just an old wives tale.

  2. says

    I’ve heard of this before. But I suppose that cats or dogs could become jealous just like siblings when the new one enters into their lives. I’ve heard of this happening a couple of times. Scary!

  3. says

    I vote old wives tale. I’ve heard this since I was a child. It was said that cats smell the milk in the baby’s mouth, thus smothering. Who are these cats? Most cats I’ve seen are afraid of infants and toddlers. Was this written by a dog?:)

  4. says

    This is absurd. How can a supposedly educated person believe such nonsense? I had lots of cats as my kids were growing up, although the last one left home when Thor came to live with us – she had been a baby when our previous mastiff was an adult, and didn’t understand puppies playing – and the cats pretty much stayed away from the babies. To assign evil intent to an animal is absurd!

  5. says

    hmm, i think since it was in the newspaper, they probably worded it in that manner to attract attention and spread the word around. personally, i don’t think any child who doesn’t yet know how to gently touch/handle anything shouldn’t be left alone with a pet and a pet probably shouldn’t be left alone with a really young child, either. but thanks for sharing.

  6. says

    That is ridiculous.. I had two cats when my first child was born, They never tried to smother anything, and were excellent with him (them really they were with the 2nd too.) They were even great with them when they were toddlers.. In true cat fashion, they just walked away when they were irritated… To somehow claim that a cat will seek to murder (if they are seeking the mouth it is pre-meditated even) a child, is crazed. Are all cats familiars of evil witches too? geesh

  7. says

    Did doctors actually write that?! It sounds like an old wives’ tale to me…

    My parents had a cat when I was born, and my dad once threw him out the front door when he climbed into my crib! He landed on his feet of course, and as I got bigger the cat actually grew fond of me. My aunt has also had cats AND dogs since well before her daughter was born, and they’ve always been fine.

    It’s unfair to say that cats are bad for babies as a rule, and especially ridiculous to say that they should be “gotten rid of” just because there’s a baby in the picture.

  8. says

    When my twins were born, we had two lovely, yet spoiled cats and I admit that I had a concern that they would be jealous and maybe scratch the babies … especially one of the two cats. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Both felines were totally enamored with my kids, and very patient with little fingers, etc. That said, though, the cats were never allowed in their cribs … ever.

  9. says

    I think it’s less likely they are trying to kill the babies but more likely that the babies are really warm and comfy. Cat’s love warm and comfortable places to sleep.

  10. says

    My grandma used to talk about this crazy smothering cat idea. When I had babies, our cats were curious but never mean to them. I’m surprised to hear such drastic talk from doctors.

  11. says

    It is untrue. If the cat is found in the crib, s/he is curious about the baby and is listening to the baby’s sounds and breaths, not “taking it away”.

    The cat may actually alert you, if the baby is having any difficulties, G-d forbid.

    Man, I’ve gotta finish writing my “Cats are People Too” Book.

    See my new cat cards at

  12. says

    I think that cats will seek out a source of warmth in a cold room, but that our current enjoyment of central heating makes having to snuggle up to an exhaling mouth unnecessary. The news are shameless in their alarmist writing.

  13. says

    I thought this hateful superstition died with the Inquisition. Of course, as you said, caution should be exercised with children and animals, but this rubbish? Meh.

  14. says

    This is probably not something that would be submitted to scientific study. Hence, it will remain forever an old wive’s tale.

    Nonetheless, it is simple wisdom to always keep an eye on animals around children. Old wives must be right at least some of the time.


  15. wyo says

    I came armed with the link to the Snopes article, but I see it’s already been posted. That “doctor’s” “advice” is absolute nonsense, and I would find myself a new doctor if I was given that load of bull.

    As many posters have said, babies need to be watched in the company of both animals AND people (jealous siblings … now THAT, I believe). But IMO, anyone who is willing to put forth some effort CAN achieve a big happy family.

    One of my favorite photos of my daughter was taken while I watched her sleeping. My snuggly cat came up beside her and laid down back to back with her to share her nap. It was lovely and sweet. And my cat moved right over to her own bed when my baby woke up. 😉

  16. says

    Our cat got in my son’s crib and peed in it (son was not in the crib at the time). He was very jealous. We put up a screen door to my son’s room so we could hear and see in it but the cat could not get in the room. Solved the problem. Same cat also peed on husbands clothing on the floor after we were married. After he “marked” them he was cool with them.

  17. says

    I have heard that my whole life. All the elderly women in our neighborhood in NYC cautioned that there should NEVER be cats in a house with a baby because the cat will go after the smell of milk on the baby’s breath and “take the breath away.” We all grew up hearing that.

    As far as it being true or not, I suppose it COULD be, but again, infants and animals should never be left alone together, which is just plain common sense.

  18. says

    It’s totally not true, and appalling that any doctor (not VETERINARIAN) would perpetuate the myth. Put “cats smothering babies” in a search and many articles will pop up dispelling this old myth. I can’t believe those guys would continue to say that…

  19. says

    We have three cats and two little kids, never had any such problem.
    They actually tended to be protective of the babies.

    I agree that a cat can cuddle and accidentally smother a baby, but to make it look premeditated, that’s ridiculous.

  20. Anonymous says

    If parents are seriously worried about this absurd fable, or even about something more realistic (ie, that the cat may scratch the baby), then there’s a simple solution. Several companies make sheer “tents” to pop on top of the crib and keep the cats from jumping in with the baby. The tents are sloped so that the cats can’t jump up and hang on, either. We had one for both babies just because we have a 20 lb cat who likes to cuddle and were worried that he was too heavy to do so with an 8 lb baby. Cats and kids were fine.

  21. Anonymous says

    I am seeing a theme. A bunch of cat owners/lovers dispelling personal opinion on a serious concern. However, contradicting themselves by saying they still took precautions just in case. I dislike cats and think that they are incapable of this act in a premeditated fashion. I believe, however, that it is still possible for a cat to harm children – especially when the child is an infant, incapable of removing a good intentioned cat from its face or chest.

  22. says

    I agree with the post. It is true that cats do this. When I was a young boy I went for a sleep over at a friends house. He had a good relationship with his cat but his cat did not like me. Not sure why. I gave it no reason to be fearful of me but it was. It ran every time I entered the room. Late at night I awoke choking. The cat was laying across my face. I almost died. I was so air deprived it took me hours to recover.

    That friend became my best friend and I spent many night at his house. There was no door to his loft room. I cant say how many times that cat tried to kill me but it was several. That cat hated me.

    We can call it an old wives tale but I for one KNOW that cats have a nasty little secret. They have you all fooled!

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